Despite gender inequality alumnae forge ahead in pursuit of their dreams

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Olivia Caponiti '23

Alumnae pursue careers in male-dominated industries.

Through the years, Sacred Heart alumnae have engaged in male-dominated careers, despite the challenges.  Three graduates are currently working in the fields of finance, architecture, and software engineering.  Miss Katherine Nail ‘16 is employed as an analyst at Standard & Poor’s (S&P) Global Ratings.  Ms. Katie Colford ’12 plans to be an architect after completing her Master’s DegreeMs. Maude Collins ’16 is the only women in her working group as a software engineer at Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company (M&T Bank).  While some companies are working towards inclusion, others still have more to do in promoting gender equality.

After graduating Cum Laude at Sacred Heart Greenwich, Miss Nail attended the University of Virginia where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree (B.A.) in Economics and English.  Upon graduation, she held the role of an intern for S&P Global Corporation before obtaining a full time position.

Miss Nail currently works as a corporate credit analyst on the Business Services & Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT) team while living in New York City.  Though she is only starting out in the finance industry, Miss Nail works hard every day to learn and ensure that she is ready for her future endeavors.  She spoke about the reasons why she chose to go into finance.  

“I took my first economics class as a sophomore in college, and thought it was really interesting,” Miss Nail said.  “Econ was a new type of challenge that, in my opinion, was a study of human behavior and how our world works.  When interning, I was impressed by the pure level of intellectual capital these women held, combined with the fast-paced learning curve and involvement in the markets.”

As a whole, men control the majority of financial positions, especially in more advanced roles.  Women only hold 21.9 percent of senior leadership roles in the industry.  Additionally, women make up approximately 42 percent of managers and 27 percent of senior vice presidents.  However, there are equal numbers of men and women in entry-level positions recently, according to catalyst.org.

S&P Global seeks gender equality through research.  Courtesy of spglobal.com

Miss Nail commented on her company’s progressive actions, as well as all the overall growth in the industry.

“My company has made strides towards creating a diversified workplace,” Miss Nail said.  “In fact, both of the managers I’ve had at S&P have been women.  I think a lot of women are intimidated by finance because of the media industry’s portrayal of Wall Street.  In reality, from what I have found, the industry judges people on intellect, salesmanship and preparedness, not on gender.”

Similar to Miss Nail, Ms. Colford plans to pursue a career in a male-dominated field.  She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture from Yale University.  Shortly after, she worked at a small firm in New York City where she managed and designed small projects for several years before returning to school.  She is now in a three-year managing program at Yale and will graduate with a Master’s Degree next year.

A survey by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architects (ACSA) displays that only 15 percent of licensed architects are women, according to hmcarchitects.com.  Despite the male domination in higher positions, Ms. Colford offered her thoughts on the progressive developments within the architectural field.

Ms. Katie Colford ’12 studies architecture at Yale University.  Courtesy of ceid.yale.edu

“One thing that is noteworthy about the gender distinctions in Architecture is that there are actually more women in graduate school programs,” Ms. Colford said.  “Instead, the gap is often happening around older generations and leadership positions which signifies that the future of the discipline is female.  I have noticed this to be slowly changing though, as more deans at the most prestigious schools are women.”

Ms. Colford spoke about how Sacred Heart prepared her for success in her profession.

“At Sacred Heart, I learned to stand my ground and be confident,” Ms. Colford said.  “I was exposed to a variety of career possibilities that set me up for success when discovering the job that I truly wanted.  Furthermore, I always had a strong interested in Science Research with Ms. Mary Musolino and in Studio Art with Mrs. Paula Westcott.  I was able to combine both of those passions into my life through architecture.”

Ms. Collins majored in both Computer Science and Mathematics at Franklin & Marshall College.  Following her graduation in 2020, she began coding and developing software for M&T Bank.  In contrast to Miss Nail and Ms. Colford, Ms. Collins faces gender discrimination on a regular basis in her career as only 8 percent of software engineers are women, according to statista.com.  She highlighted specific incidences in which she has experienced biases and prejudice.

“In my group, there are 16 software developers of which I am the only women,” Ms. Collins said.  “I see first hand the underlying sexism and misogyny based in the field’s foundation.  I am often steamrolled as men try to take over roles and jobs assigned to me.  In fact, my boss once called me an assistant after complimenting all of the men on their independent work.”

Ms. Collins offered a piece of advice that she would give to any woman hoping to pursue a career in a male-dominated industry. 

“No matter how hard you hope, you will undeniably face misogyny in the workplace,” Ms. Collins said.  “You must prepare yourself and find allies to help you through.  For example, I found women who I could relate and stick with.  No matter what, I say to keep going and never stoop to the level of those who discriminate.”

Featured Image by Olivia Caponiti ’23